Wasted Words

Sometimes everything turns into a story. Even a meditation on a pet peeve. So…

Wasted Words

“I don’t understand it.”

She looked up from her book. “You don’t understand a lot of things: other people, quarks, qubits….”

He interrupted. “I understand qubits. Could I build a quantum computer? No, but I get the idea.”

She shook her head. “Beside the point. I simply meant that the set of things you don’t understand is a very large set. Could you be more specific?”

He almost said, “Could you be less contemptuous?” but decided against it. “Why do people waste so many words on the obvious?”


“People who insist on saying idiotic things like ‘blue in color” or ‘rectangular in shape.” For heaven’s sake why?  Are they afraid we’re going to assume ‘blue in shape’ or ‘rectangular in color’, so they feel the need to clarify?”

“Could be synesthesia.”

“Unlikely. The most common manifestation is in people who perceive colors as sounds, not shapes. Or associate numbers and letters with colors. I do that sometimes.”

“What color is zero?”

“White, of course, but I don’t have synesthesia.”

“Then how did you know what color zero is?”

He sighed. “Because you asked me. Ask me about any single-digit number and I can tell you what color I associate with it. That’s not synesthesia, that’s just imagination. Eight is orange, by the way.”

“You’re right. Eight should be orange, but we’re getting off track here. You say it’s a waste of words?”

He shrugged. “So? It’s obviously redundant, except for those rare people with perceptional differences. I hate wasting words. It offends me.”

“You fritter away emotional capital generating anger over trifles. That’s a waste that offends me.”

“So? It’s not as if I’m going to run out of emotional capital. It’s an infinite resource. In fact, the more we use, the more we have.”

She glared. “That’s neither here nor there. It’s the waste that bothers me. The redundancies in the language you pointed out might be inefficient, but you can’t say they’re not precise. Don’t you like precision?”

“Not when it’s inappropriate. When I say I hammered a nail, no one should be asking me if I used a hammer. It’s not exactly a secret at that point.”

She looked at him, expressionless. He knew that look. He waited, but not for long.

“You’re getting worked up over what amounts to a speech tic. We all have them, and you’re only responsible for yours, not anyone else’s.”

“I don’t have a speech tic.”

“Then why do you start so many sentences with ‘so?’”

“So what?” he said, before he could stop himself.

She just shook her head. “I’m out. I shall go back to reading my book, leaving you to stew in your own obsessions.”

“I always do.”

“I meant quietly.

“Fine,” he said, and thought about it. “After all, silence is golden in color.”

©2021 Richard Parks

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